Saturday, February 13, 2016


Four, fourfold, 4-H, four-footed, four-hand, Four Horsemen (of the you-know-what), four-in-hand, four-letter word, four-star, four-wheeler…
…the list goes on and on.

 But this formidable foursome is a special grouping: behold four members of the 1937 varsity basketball team at the May School, 270 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts (now the Brimmer and May School of Chestnut Hill).
          Top two: Peggy Breed and Edith Fisher; bottom two: M. Harcourt and my mother, Martha Howell.

There were twenty-seven members of the Class of 1937; these four were the powerhouses of their basketball team, although the term “powerhouse” probably meant something entirely different back in those days—no powerhouses would wear collars like that!
My mother’s May School yearbook is one of my favorite possessions: a slim, beautifully bound yearbook that gave me a new vision of my mother…
 the Class Vote (senior superlatives), she was chosen Most Animated, Funniest and Noisiest (none of which is news to me).
I’m surprised she’s not grinning in this basketball photo; her senior picture, too, is an amazingly demure image of her, recognizing, I am sure, the seriousness of graduation back then.
But the write-up beneath her picture tells a truer story:
Hats off to Haffy! What would we do without her laughing and whistling in Latin class? If she weren’t around, we should have no one to tell our new jokes or riddles to, since she will always laugh for us, while the rest of our blasé class merely stares at our efforts. Haffy has been with us four years; and although timid at first, she certainly has snapped out of it. Her table manners at school, however, have not passed the kindergarten stage. Water and a spoon are a constant temptation that cannot be resisted. For all her hilarity, she comes out with swell marks and is one of the most conscientious members...

Her major weakness, according to her classmates, was her terrible color combinations.
Again, no surprise there—she favored terrible color combinations well into her nineties!

But here she is in 1937, part of a sports foursome: a senior in high school, eighteen years old and on her way to Smith College…

I might have liked her back then; we might have been friends.